MCTR Renewed and Ready For Action

Originally Published in the October 1993 issue of The Outfitter Magazine.


With work on two industry strategies fully underway, and its organizational restructuring completed, the new Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation (MCTR) is ready for business.

“Business success in this decade and into the next century depends on the ability to make the most of the challenges and opportunities of change — and change has certainly been sweeping through Ontario” says Minister Anne Swarbick.

“The provincial government including the MCTR, has responded to change with a number of major initiatives,” the Minister adds.

In February of this year, Premier Bob Rae announced a major restructuring of the government in order to control the provincial deficit, reduce government spending and make the public service more efficient and more responsive to Ontarians. Eight ministries were merged, bringing the total number of government ministries down from 28 to 20. The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation and the Ministry of Culture and Communications became the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation, with the communications portfolio moving to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

Immediately after Premier Rae’s announcement, Deputy Minister Dr. Elaine Todres and her staff began the process of bringing the two ministries together.

The major change in the new Ministry of Culture, Tourism and recreation is the move from seven to five divisions. There are now three program divisions that reflect the sectors they serve: culture, tourism and recreation. In addition, there is a centralized corporate services and organization division, and a corporate affairs branch, reporting to the Deputy Minister.

“This structure is very straightforward. It allows us to focus more clearly on our main areas of responsibility and ensure better access for our clients,” says Dr. Todres, MCTR Deputy Minister.

When the reorganization was announced in February, some were surprised by the merger. But there are many reasons it makes sense.

There are already strong links among the three sectors. One example of the tourism and recreation link is the development of the snowmobile trail network across northern Ontario, a project that strengthens both sectors. Bringing culture, tourism and recreation into one ministry is a logical step because it builds on partnerships that are already healthy and successful.

“Creating our ministry takes advantage of the great energy among three powerful sectors. We can put that energy to work to help the full range of tourism interests. And, we’re in a better position to build more creative and effective partnerships,” says Minister Anne Swarbick.

“We have a very wide variety of cultural attractions in every part of Ontario - north, south, east, and west. Add tourism and recreation, and you have an extremely dynamic combination. Ontario has unique attractions and natural beauty, fascinating heritage, a lively cultural scene and outstanding recreation. By building on our strengths in culture, tourism and recreation, we can appeal to an even wider market,” adds the Minister.

The ministry restructuring goes beyond a new organization chart — it reflects a new way of doing business.

“We are all rethinking traditional roles and responsibilities as we come to grips with profound structural and societal change. That type of thinking has led to a reshaping of our ministry and an exciting concept of how we will carry out our business,” says Dr. Todres.

“Our role is best suited to act as facilitator and enabler, to ring like-minded individuals together and let them do what they do best. Our emphasis will be on strengthening the economic sectors we represent,” adds the deputy.

That in a nutshell, is the thinking behind the tourism and cultural industries' strategies - two key economic initiatives that the ministry is pursuing on the direction of the Ontario government cabinet.

Even though Ontario is still the number one tourism destination in Canada, generating $17 billion in 1991, the province has been losing its share of international market receipts for the past ten years.

To reverse that trend, the Minister launched the process in June that will result in an Ontario tourism sectoral strategy. The process is industry-driven, bringing together representatives from industry, business, labour and government.

“By looking realistically at the strengths and weaknesses of the industry, deciding where we can build, where the opportunities are, and how we can create jobs for the future, we’ll be able to set a solid foundation for the industry’s growth,” says assistant deputy minister of tourism Jan Ruby.

The development of the tourism sector strategy is being led by the Minister’s Advisory Committee, which has been working with some 300 people across the province this summer to carry out public consultations. The Northern Regional Committee is headed by Carol Wisneski, co-owner of Stanley’s West Arm Resort in Vermilion Bay.

Work is going full steam ahead. Two rounds of consultations have been completed with another set planned for October. The Minister expects to have the final strategy document in November. Key recommendations coming out of that strategy will become the focal points for the tourism industry and the ministry to work on.

Both the tourism and cultural industries are part of the government’s wider plan to rebuild and strengthen Ontario’s economy. The provincial government is focusing its energies on ten industries as part of its economic renewal package. Tourism and cultural industries have been identified as key sectors. So much so, that in June, the premier asked Minister Swarbick to join the cabinet Committee on Economic Development (CCED). Before then, she represented the ministry on the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy. As a member of CCED, Minister Swarbick regularly participates in key economic discussions and influences decisions that directly affect the tourism industry.

Other ministries on this Cabinet Committee include the Ministries of Agriculture and Food, Economic Development and Trade, Finance, Labour, Natural Resources and Northern Development and Mines. Both the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Frances Lankin and Finance Minister Floyd Laughren also sit on the Economic Development committee.

“The Premier understands that the tourism and culture sectors are major economic players in this province. He knows that they will be key contributors in rebuilding Ontario’s economy”, says Minister Swarbick.

“I am looking forward to working with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Development. I am particularly excited to share the findings of both the tourism and cultural industries strategies with my colleagues in Cabinet. These strategies will give us the blueprint for further action and growth.”

MCTR’s Tourism Division

The tourism division is led by assistant deputy minister Jan Ruby. Jan joins MCTR from the Management Board of the cabinet where she was Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for Management Policy across the Ontario Public Service. She was also responsible for the government’s system-wide Customer Service Task Force. Jan has an MBA from the University of Western Ontario.

In addition to ts on-going programs, the tourism division is also pursuing several initiatives like the tourism sectoral strategy and the Central reservation Information Service (CRIS ONTARIO) pilot project.

The Tourism Marketing and Customer Service Branch, led by Mary Ann Lanyon, provides tourism marketing to the domestic and international markets, travel information through its Telemarketing Centre (the 1-800-ONTARIO line) and 18 travel information centres (12 year round and 6 seasonal). It also distributes numerous tourism publications ranging from information on accommodations, bed and breakfasts, seasonal events, etc. The Branch also designs and manages media and public relations programs.

Tourism Marketing is also managing the CRIS ONTARIO project. An automated reservation service, CRIS ONTARIO allows 1-800 callers and visitors to travel information centres, to make reservations for accommodations. “We’re trying to make holiday planning as effortless as possible. One-stop shopping is the ideal solution,” says project manager Dennis Carter. More than 160 properties in Eastern Ontario are part of the CRIS network.

The Tourism Policy Branch conducts research and monitors both domestic and international industry trends, develops strategies, and recommends new policy and program initiatives. “Information is a key part in planning for any project. Our role is to provide the most comprehensive and current information possible,” says Branch director Ruth Cornish.

One of Tourism Policy’s key responsibilities is to support the industry-led tourism sectoral strategy. “The response from the industry has been overwhelming,” says project coordinator, Bill Kenny.

As a result of the Ministry’s reorganization, all MCTR 22 field offices across Ontario now report directly to the assistant deputy minister (ADM) of tourism. Each field office acts as the local contact for all of the ministry’s cultural, tourism and recreation programs and services.

“We can give the community a one-window access to government support with their economic development initiatives,” says Tom Rankin, regional Director, Transition.

The Agency liaison team, reporting directly to the ADM of tourism works to strengthen the relationship between the ministry and its provincial-operated agencies. The tourism agencies include the Niagara Parks Commission, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Ontario Place and Ottawa Congress Centre. In total, 23 different tourist and cultural agencies and attractions report to the Ministry.

“With our new division structure in place, we can now get onto the business at hand, which is to enhance Ontario’s image, both domestically and abroad, as a desirable tourist destination,” says Jan.


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